In early November, the most talented young ethical hackers (aged 15-24) from the Nordic-Baltic region gathered in the University of Tartu sports hall to showcase their skills at the annual Cyber Battle of Nordic-Baltics.
This article is published in partnership with CTF Tech.
The event, organised by Estonian cyber education start-up CTF Tech and CybExer Technologies, a NATO-awarded Estonian cyber security company, is an annual capture-the-flag competition that brings together teams of cyber security enthusiasts aged 15-24 from the Nordic and Baltic countries to the Estonian university town of Tartu. It provides participants with a unique opportunity to test their skills, collaborate with peers and showcase their abilities under high pressure.
The final event of the Telia Cyber Battle of the Nordic-Baltics 2023 saw intense competition, with the winning team “Cats” from Iceland. Sweden’s “Bumbodosan” secured second place, while Denmark’s “Free” came in third. The best girls’ team was “Mean Girls” and the best Estonian team was “Ural-4”. Sweden also took the title of best online team.
“The Cyber Battle serves as a platform to engage young people and aims to guide both boys and girls to the ‘good side’. This encourages them to play a proactive role in preventing and deterring cyber attacks,” Kätlin Koemets, the main organiser, told Estonian World.
Cyber battle and entertainment
The battle day was almost a full day’s work. The teams were engaged in solving CTF-based tasks, where CTF stands for “capture the flag”, a standard format for this type of event.
These problem-based tasks required skills and knowledge in a variety of cybersecurity topics, all centred around potential real-world crises and situations, including digital intrusion, detection and prevention, virus and malware analysis, cyber attack resolution and decryption.
But Battle Day wasn’t just about competition; it also included an entertainment area for spectators and a special forum called Cybercation for educators.
The competition area was built on a similar level to a TV show, with all the necessary elements for a successful and high quality event. The aim was to ensure that both competitors and spectators had a positive experience, so creating an engaging atmosphere was crucial – for example, a live leaderboard and live commentary from the experts.
The competition was broadcast live on Telia TV’s Inspira channel and the whole event was hosted by popular Estonian singer Karl-Erik Taukar.
The entertainment area was dedicated to the audience and offered various activities in cooperation with partner companies. For example, visitors could conduct space experiments or drive a rally car in a console game.
On stage was the science show Ahhaa Science, which added an educational and interactive element to the entertainment. The audience also enjoyed a live performance by Estonian rapper Villemdrillem and musical performances by actress and singer Kristel Aaslaid, who not only showcased her singing talent but also took on the role of host of the entertainment area. The inclusion of these various activities and performances helped to create a happy atmosphere for all participants.
The Cybercation Forum 2023 was held for the second time, with the main goal of fostering and expanding the cybersecurity community among educators, policy makers and entrepreneurs in the Nordic-Baltic region.
This year’s focus was on gamified hacking. The forum featured keynote speeches, panel discussions and live demos that explored the topic in a comprehensive way. Through these diverse elements, the Cybercation Forum contributed to the collaborative exchange of knowledge and ideas, further enhancing the collective understanding of cybersecurity within the educational and business landscape.
The organisers also expressed their gratitude to the event’s supporters – the telecommunications company Telia, the town of Tartu, the University of Tartu and several private sector companies – for supporting the initiative to find and develop future cyber talents.